Director Fernando Meirelles‘s career is taking a quick and dumbfounding fall. After giving us arguably one of the greatest films of the modern era, City of God, and a satisfying follow up with The Constant Gardener, Meirelles has fallen into misery porn-level drama which would even make a fellow character executioner like Alejandro Iñárritu cringe at the ridiculous obstacles the characters in 360 are forced to stumble through. At a near-two hours, Meirelles’s ensemble piece becomes an astonishingly immersive experience, solely in the way it puts the audience in the uncomfortable and dull state a few of its characters are stuck in.
Those characters include a former sex offender (Ben Foster), a bored married couple (Jude Law and Rachel Weisz), an unsatisfied gangster, a dentist in love, a prostitute (Lucia Siposova), an elderly father (Anthony Hopkins) searching for his missing daughter, and some other wasted character whose main purpose is to ridiculously put Tyler, the sex offender, in a seriously uncomfortable situation.
During all these stories, the only thought-provoking question stays the same: What’s the point?
Meirelles gives us no insight into the lives of these people. Perhaps it’s because the severe lack of empathy the director seems to have for most of them, even with all the anguish and pain they’re going through. For the characters who aren’t going through some calculated drama — the dentist, for example — there’s a complete lack of stakes.
Before the end, the film consistently revels in these characters’ problems, and all without much reason for doing so. Once Meirelles gives us an answer for what it all means, he hammers it into our face even more than the title does. If you haven’t guessed what theme the film is exploring based on the title alone, it’s about the continuous cycle of life. After you suffer an uneasy situation, someone else soon will as well. It all comes full circle, and yeah, we got it.
Not the most subtle idea, but there’s no place for restraint here. 360 represents the worst of Peter Morgan‘s writing. When Morgan is on his best day, he gives us serious awards contenders like The Last King of Scotland, The Queen, Frost/Nixon, and The Damned United. When he’s at his worst, Morgan writes Hereafter and this: overbearing, heavy-handed, and empty melodrama. Like, say, Paul Haggis’s Crash, Morgan all too often relies on contrivances to tie all these characters together. Scenes and characters slog along with little narrative drive, making all the stories come off as short films strung together with fishing wire and ripped up duct tape instead of an actual movie.
Because of the script and its execution, 360 is an all around half-baked film. It’s made all the more dislikable considering the serious level of talent involved. The fact that you can get Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, and Ben Foster all in one film together and give them little to nothing to do is baffling. They’re all actors who can make flipping through the phone book look exciting. Then again, there’s no room for excitement in a movie as drab as 360.
The Upside: Two tense scenes; Meirelles knows how to craft a pretty, if utterly soulless, shot; Ben Foster is acting in a much, much better movie waiting to be made
The Downside: Clinical and cold; a laughably obvious ending; underdeveloped and meandering storylines; moves at a slow pace, not a meditative and human one; arguably hates its characters
The Side: 360 is based on a play titled “Reigen.”